Three ways to live

Which is your way?

D.A Carson and Christian character

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 7:46 pm on Sunday, October 28, 2007

This weekend I attended talks by famous Christian scholar, D. A. Carson, see my earlier announcement. Dr. Carson is not a frequent visitor to Singapore, last time he came 10 years ago, so I simply could not miss it.

Well, the talks have left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the guy is indeed brilliant, both as scholar and as speaker. I listened to some of his lectures online, but those were probably addressed to seminary students and hence sounded very academic. Well, his address to this audience was much easier to understand. The main topic was how to see the Bible as one continuing connected revelation, and use this to preach the OT passages that are seemingly of no relevance to us. He demonstrated this on the example of the book of Nehemiah and it was, well, brilliant.

On the other hand, I also got to speak with him in person. To confess, I always try to approach speakers with questions, just to learn how they are in person (rather than to get answers). Well, on a personal level, Dr. Carson leaves a very different (not very positive) impression. I am not sure I could define this impression precisely, but the best term I can come up with is “intellectual dominance”. Basically, instead of giving you the answers or pointing out what’s wrong with the questions, he makes you fell rather silly for even asking these questions. Not a nice feeling. He was also quite quick to judge me on the basis of the questions I asked.

I would, of course, discard this experience as a fluke, but the truth is I have heard similar stories from former students of Dr. Carson in various online forums. And I have also seen this attitude very often in the academic world from the “stars” in the field. Yet the question for me would be, is it compatible with the Christian character? You see, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). It is not our brilliance as scholars or speakers – these are spiritual gifts, not the fruit.

Well, I should stop now before I reach any big conclusions. After all, 10 min conversation is not enough to go by. But I think it is important for us not to mistake gifts for character. The former are given to us by the Holy Spirit to serve the church, the latter is a transforming work of the Spirit to turn us into the likeness of the Son. As 1 Corinthians 13 clearly imply, it is very possible to have the gifts but not the character. But more on this in the summary of our last week’s study, coming up soon.

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